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Articles Home » 2003 Articles » Sonic Pulsar - 2003 Playing The Universe
 
Sonic Pulsar - 2003 Playing The Universe


SONIC PULSAR - PLAYING THE UNIVERSE (2003, HUGO FLORES PRODUCTIONS)
Hugo Flores - vocals, guitars, synthesizers; bass, drum samples
Carlos Mateus - synthesizers, guitars, lyrics


Background
Sonic Pulsar are a duo from Portugal who specialise in space-epic progressive rock. I apologise for not reviewing this CD earlier but having moved houses a few times this year, their CD 'Playing The Universe' got lost in the shuffle. However, were onto it now, and thankful for that as this is a pretty good effort for what is essentially a studio project. Believe me, these have had a serious inauguration listening to 80's/90's era prog. The obvious comparisons are the heavier bands such as Dream Theater, Megallan, Ascension Theory and Queensryche. They do veer toward the tender side as well, but don't head down the Rush/Enchant/Tiles road thankfully, which could've been their downfall. Their leaning toward more ambient styles puts paid to that. Their style has been described as progressive metal meets ambient instrumental. The term 'ambient' is quite appropriate as I haven't this level of ambience on a prog rock album for absolute ages. And for two guys to be making all this music is even more remarkable. The songs (and we've got 71 plus minutes of it), are more straight-forward than complex, lush, and in some parts border on the psychedelic, for those that remember that long lost genre of music. The synth passages are gloriously rich and harks back to the era of German space rock bands from the late 70's (anyone remember Amon Duul and Eloy?). The production is carefully constructed by the sounds of things, you'd have to think so considering the amount of synths going on, with swirling passages of music interacting with each other. The only drawback perhaps is the synthetic sound of the drums, the use of samples and machines being used. With that aside, it still sounds great to these ears.

The Songs
Things get underway with the grunt guitar of 'Radio Silent'. This one takes on a Threshold approach, moving between fast and slow sections. It's followed by 'Dreamscapes', which is a fantastic space-drenched piece, with layers of deep synth wash underneath some ambient piano and plucked strings. The equally ambient 8 minutes of 'Wasting', with noticeable vibrato effects keeps things on the light side. A nod to Dream Theater is deserved with this one I think. The mainly acoustic 'Old Mans Tale' is a short excursion by comparison. It's followed by the lovely instrumental 'Sonic Pulsar' - the guitar/synth interplay in particular a standout. The mid-tempo affair of 'I Have This Stone' is another melodious encounter that takes on a Queensryche approach this time around. Hugo's drum samples get a workout and a half on the stark sounding 'In Slow Motion', this one sounding like some background music to a B-movie. It doesn't do anything for me unfortunately. The big synthesizer sweeps return on 'This Is Not A Jam Session', taking on a Yes 'Swing High Aim Low' comparison. The comparison made even more noticeable by the Chris Squire like bass lines and Trevor Rabin like guitar parts. Some will get it, some won't. Back to heavier climes is the track 'New Perspective', offset by some symphonic aspects that would have older prog-heads nodding in agreement. The ballad 'Made Of Dreams' features some Geoff Tate like warbling over the top of some truly ambient piano. Even new age artists couldn't replicate ambience to this degree! Another fantastic ambient instrumental is the title track 'Playing To The Universe'. The coup de grace is the 6 minute finale 'Somewhere In The Universe', ending the album on an upbeat aggressive note.

In Summary
A very good effort, and an album to be best heard under a set of high quality headphones. Along with all the other emerging bands out of Portugal, you can now add the name of Sonic Pulsar. Recommended for prog rockers who have a penchant for OTT synth effects/extremely ambient soundscapes, in tandem with some great guitarwork. If anything, 'Playing The Universe' showcases their ability quite well. Sonic Pulsar now have a new album in the works, called 'Out Of Place'. Check them out. Well done Hugo and Carlos.

Track Listing:
01 Radio Silent
02 Dreamscapes
03 Sending Dead Flowers
04 Wasting
05 Old Mans Tales
06 Sonic Pulsar
07 I Have This Stone
08 In Slow Motion
09 This Is Not A Jam Session
10 New Perspective
11 Made Of Dreams
12 Playing The Universe
13 Somewhere In The Universe
(i) Endless Space
(ii) See You Somewhere

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